MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The search for a superintendent is over for the South Orange Maplewood School District.
The school board appointed Ronald Taylor as the new superintendent during its meeting on Thursday night.
Taylor will replace interim superintendent Thomas Ficarra, who has served as the interim since July 2017. Ficarra had replaced former schools superintendent John Ramos, who retired in June 2017. Ficarra had also been retired before he became the interim superintendent.
"My first goal is to get to know the district," Taylor told TAPinto SOMA. "I'm a listener so I want to learn from the board, the leaders in the district, the teachers, parents and students.
Taylor said his second goal is to make sure the schools open successfully in the fall, meaning that the school buildings are furbished property, all the correct supplies are ordered, and there are no staff vacancies.
Taylor comes to the South Orange Maplewood School District from the Willingboro Public Schools where he currently is the superintendent of schools. There he led the completion of a $67 milllion facilities bond referendum, improved graduation rates for the high school, and increased the attendance rate at all grade levels, among other accomplishments, according to Taylor's resume.
He was also a kindergarten teacher in Maryland and Virginia and an assistant principal before going to Willingboro.
"Dr. Taylor not only matched our community's leadership profile, but he also has demonstrated successful experience and proven results in the big goals for our district," said South Orange Maplewood School District Board of Education President Annemarie Maini. "He also has excellent communication skills, and an incredible ability to relate to people and students."
Choosing Taylor as the new superintendent ended an eight month superintendent search that was led by the district's search consultant Bill Librera. There were three finalists, according to Suzanne Turner, director of strategic communications for the district. But Taylor "emerged as the leading candidate," the district said in a letter sent to families, staff and members of the South Orange and Maplewood communities.
Members of the school board participated in the superintendent search, which included interviews, background and reference checks, and a site visit by two of the three board officers.
Although the board as a whole participated in the search process, some board members said during the Thursday meeting that the search lacked transparency.
Board member Johanna Wright is optimistic about having a new superintendent and working with him but said the board wasn't transparent with the community about the search.
Turner said the district was transparent about the interviewing process but didn't reveal who the candidates were.
"No candidates' names were released until today out of respect because they're employed somewhere else," Turner said. "We didn't want to jeporadize their employment somewhere else."
Taylor's first day with the district will be July 8. His salary will be about $196,000 a year, according to Turner.
The district will be hosting meet and greet events to give the public opportunities to meet the new superintendent. The first meet and greet event is scheduled for Tuesday, April 30, at 7 p.m., in the Columbia High School library, 17 Parker Ave.
"We look forward to working together to build the infrastructure, systems and educational program which will help all of our students master the skills and knowledge they need to be successful," the district said in its letter to families, staff and members of the community.